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Rouge Beer
Rouge Beer

This Beer Was Brewed Using Yeast Grown in a Beard

Rouge Beer
Rouge Beer

Beer basically consists of four things: hops, barley, water, and yeast. The hops add that flavor that we’ve come to know as beer, but without yeast, no one would experience its intoxicating effects. Of the more than 1600 strains of yeast, only a select few can ferment sugars into alcohol. While most yeast, which is a fungus, comes from rotting fruits, bugs, or animals, a new strain being used by Rogue Brewery in Newport, Oregon, came from a most unlikely place—the master brewer’s beard.

The Rogue brewers had been searching for an exclusive yeast to match with their homegrown barley and hops and sent three samples they found in their hop yard to culture. Sample after sample failed to produce yeast that would ferment.    

Someone joked that brew master John Maier’s 34-year-old beard might be a perfect medium to grow yeast. He agreed to try it, and plucked nine hairs from his beard, which were sent to White Labs for testing and culturing (culturing makes it seem as if the hairs watched opera and read Shakespeare, but it means they were primed to grow yeast). It turns out, Maier's beard hairs can produce yeast—and pretty decent yeast at that.

Maier’s beard yeast is a blend of Rogue’s workhorse yeast, Pacman, and a wild brewer’s yeast. Wild brewer’s yeasts act unpredictably, only fermenting some of the alcohol, but in the case of the beard yeast, it worked so well that it created a crisp flavor not typically associated with the unruly varieties. It was such a shock that the scientists at White Labs double-checked the results because they feared they had accidentally profiled the Pacman yeast instead of the beard yeast.  

This caused us to wonder why Maier’s beard has such an interesting yeast blend. It turns out that yeast isn’t very mobile. Someone or something has to transport the yeast. But, these fungi grow uncontrollably in places like a brewery. So unknown to Maier, he was a walking Petri dish for the Pacman yeast used at Rogue. And he might have picked up the wild yeast from eating something fruity, creating this unique blend for beer. The brewery notes that Maier's beard has attended more than 15,000 brews, making it the perfect habitat for this unusual yeast.

When Maier, who vows never to cut his beard, learned that his facial hair was home to a unique yeast blend, he said, “It was in front of me the whole time and it only took two centuries and five decades to grow.”

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History
84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
Keystone/Getty Images

It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.


A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
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Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.


Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.


New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.


American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.


Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
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A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.


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Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.

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Courtesy New District
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Food
Say ‘Cheers’ to the Holidays With This 24-Bottle Wine Advent Calendar
Courtesy New District
Courtesy New District

This year, eschew your one-tiny-chocolate-a-day Advent calendar and count down to Christmas the boozy way. An article on the Georgia Straight tipped us off to New District’s annual wine Advent calendars, featuring 24 full-size bottles.

Each bottle of red, white, or sparkling wine is hand-picked by the company’s wine director, with selections from nine different countries. Should you be super picky, you can even order yourself a custom calendar, though that will likely add to the already-high price point. The basic 24-bottle order costs $999 (in Canadian dollars), and if you want to upgrade from cardboard boxes to pine, that will run you $100 more.

If you can’t quite handle 24 bottles (or $999), the company is introducing a 12-bottle version this year, too. For $500, you get 12 reds, whites, rosés, and sparkling wines from various unnamed “elite wine regions.”

With both products, each bottle is numbered, so you know exactly what you should be drinking every day if you really want to be a stickler for the Advent schedule. Whether you opt for 12 or 24 bottles, the price works out to about $42 per bottle, which is somewhere in between the “I buy all my wines based on what’s on sale at Trader Joe’s” level and “I am a master sommelier” status.

If you want to drink yourself through the holiday season, act now. To make sure you receive your shipment before December 1, you’ll need to order by November 20. Get it here.

[h/t the Georgia Straight]

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